Content Marketing For Banks

A recent American Banker article states (with the name of the bank anonymized because I’m a wuss and don’t want to be seen as picking on the bank):

“Big National Bank in Big City is launching a new online magazine with a goal of driving more traffic to its website. ‘We’re tapping into the growing trend toward trusted sources for news and information and doing it in a way that will drive new and more frequent visits to our public site,’ said an executive vice president at the bank.”

My take: If you don’t see anything wrong with this, you haven’t sufficiently thought through your organization’s content marketing strategy.


What’s wrong with what the bank is doing? For starters, having a goal of “driving more traffic to its website.”

If you’re Amazon, and you sell lots of things on your site, then driving people to your site is a worthwhile goal. If you’re an online magazine, and the rate you charge advertisers goes up based on your website traffic, then driving people to your website is a worthwhile goal.

But for a bank, why is driving site traffic a good thing? Are people really going to open more checking or savings account because they visit the site more often? Are they really going to deposit more money, or put more money in an investment account, because they visit the site more often?

You’re going to have a tough time proving that the answer to those last two questions is “yes.” You might have data that shows that customers who visit your site more often own more products and have higher balances–but that doesn’t prove that visiting the site more often caused the product behavior.


Here’s another part of the article:

“The digital publication will feature branded editorial content, including promotions for the bank’s events, market data, personal finance tips and lifestyle stories on style and health.”

Does “branded” content mean it’s original content? If so, I can only imagine how much the bank will have to spend to develop original content regarding market data, personal finance tips, and lifestyle stories. All for what? Driving people to their website. The ROI on this investment–if indeed, the content is original and fresh for the publication–seems pretty shaky to me.

It also seems to me to be a big bet–even if the content is fresh and original–that the content will be truly be better and different than the hundreds (if not thousands) of other sources of financial content regarding personal finance and market data.

And I trust that the bank did its homework and confirmed that its customers really want lifestyle stories on style and health from the bank. I’d find that hard to believe, but hey, it’s possible.
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Bottom line: I can’t help but conclude that the bank in question–and, in all likelihood, plenty of other banks, as well–hasn’t figured out if content is simply fodder to engage customers that leads them to do something else (whether it’s visiting the website or some other truly desirable behavior), or if the content is valuable in and of itself.

All content is not created equally. Some content is effective at leading the audience to take action. Other forms of content, however, is valuable to the audience in and of itself. That is, just producing or distributing the content provides value to a customer or prospect.

Unique content can fulfill the latter role, but isn’t guaranteed to. Re-purposed, re-branded content might support the former role (i.e., driving desirable behavior), but isn’t guaranteed to. Not figuring out which content marketing strategy you want to pursue is guaranteed to do one thing, however: Cause you to fall short of your marketing goals.


People read Wired or Quartz or whatever they read because they like the content–and because they can’t find that type of content, and that quality of content anywhere else. In other words, the content from those publications is valuable in and of itself. The content from these publications isn’t designed to produce residual behavior.

In the financial services space, there’s no shortage of content available. For the bank described in the AB article to develop some new and different is a huge task. Why not simply curate the overwhelming volume of content already out there for well-defined customer segments within the bank (because not all content will be seen as equally valuable to all segments)?

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